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Be not solitary, be not idle. / Every man is, or hopes to be, an idler.
Dr Samuel Johnson, The Idler

Tue Jan 15, 2002

Welcome to the mountainjournal

Dear Journal, finally plucked up courage to take to the Italian roads and head for the mountains for some fun in the snow. Arriving at Chiesa, Valmelenco to a distinct absence of snow I was doubtful of the chances of snowboarding. But busloads of skiers put my mind at rest and I joined them in the ski lift that took us to the top of the mountain.

The plateau stretched out before us, there was indeed snow. Whether it was good or not I didnt know. I was neither a snowboarder nor skier - yet. I hired my deck, a rather short board I thought and took a leap into a new world.

To my surprise I went well, remembering a few techniques I had picked up in France a year ago. I was self taught and proud to be so. The biggest danger I encountered was other people on my slope, I resented them for making me nervous. The first run was done, my calves were burning, but I had survived unscathed and hooked.

Mon Jan 21, 2002

Ice climbing

Dear Journal, having my new found freedom I thought I would amuse myself by going to see the Ice climbing world cup in Val Daone. Arriving to an empty car park Saturday afternoon I didnt know if I had missed the main event or it hadnt yet started. Of course it hadnt started and I had to wait around a couple of hours.

The climbing structure was an odd looking thing. A mixture of ice, wood and your regular bolt on climbing holds. I was unsure what kind of event this would be. After a few glasses of mulled wine to keep me warm the competition got underway. Competitors followed a circuit, first on the overhanging wall, then onto the second overhanging wall, and finally onto a traverse. Each competitor had a fixed duration of time to complete the route, even if he fell, followed by a rest and then onto the next problem.

One by one out came the competitors, names I recognized from the magazines with strangely shaped axes and little rock shoes with protruding points at all angles. Obviously things had moved on a little since I climbed in the Cairngorms.

Despite some of the climbs appearing somewhat contrived, and by the end nothing more than an exercise in placing picks in precreated holes and hanging on for as long as possible, the climbing was indeed impressive.

Opting not to see the final the following day I purchased a snowboard, and took it to Madonna di Campiglio. This was a resort that I had heard of and it was with a great deal of anticipation I went up on the lift. The situation was fantastic, but I was filled with all kinds of doubts about my board. Now I had my own I could adjust the stance at any angle, but which? The day was spent full of frustrating experimentations and many bruises. The bindings went forwards, backwards, twisted to 45 degrees and back again to parallel. I watched other people and examined their boards but by the end of the day I was no wiser.

Mon Jan 28, 2002


Desperate now to come to an understanding with my snowboard I once again headed to the hills. This time to Passo Tonale, a wide open piste with no snow. The season has so far been unkind to lovers of snow and the slopes were thin and icy. Tonale is also quite flat, and I came across a new problem, that of gliding. On a steep slope I can understand I must set my edge with respect to the aspect of the slope. But when the slope becomes less sleep my lack of technique becomes obvious and I fight not to catch the wrong edge.

This also has the result of slowing me down, leading to frustrating hikes along the piste. Not a good day.

Sunday I went further along the valley to the resort of Folgarida. This felt more like Madonna, steep slops in wooded hill sides. I was enjoying myself, and my flakey technique was overcome by brute force and ignorance. At the top of the mountain I was delighted to see Madonna just in the adjacent valley, I am begining to get my bearings and the mountains are becoming smaller in scale.